The 'Always-On' Culture

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Peter Livingstone.



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The long-hours culture which is familiar to most Executive, C and D suite professionals has now given way to the ‘always-on’ culture. Technological advances and connectivity are two of the main concerns driving more and more executive professionals, directors and top management to continue working and regularly checking their emails out of hours or whilst on annual leave. In the UK, August is traditionally the peak holiday season, and according to a 2,500-strong poll commissioned by global workplace provider Regus, instead of resting, 39% of employees work up to three hours each day while on holiday, and 8% work more than three hours a day. In addition, of those surveyed, 25% declared that they would be operating on a slightly reduced ‘business as usual approach whilst on annual leave. 

Of the 1,574 managers surveyed, the vast majority (77%) work for at least one additional hour each day, adding up to an extra 29 days over the course of a year. This extra time cancels out managers’ annual holiday entitlement (which averages only 28 days) leaving them stressed and overworked. 

The ‘always-on’ culture can have deleterious effects on the health of business leaders, with symptoms such as anxiety, stress and depression having a knock-on effect on management processes and decision-making. As executives and professionals spend more and more time on mobiles and tablets, there is a concern for a balance between work and life. The ‘always-on’ or ‘24/7’ culture can prove to be more damaging than productive. 

Factors such as digital advances and easy access to mobile communications have made it easier to respond to business matters. With C and D-suite executives in international business networks, their partners and contacts all work in different time zones which imposes the need to reply when possible for best business practices. The importance of being always connected is being seen as productive and reachable for the sake of business communications, yet research suggests it is the 24/7 always-on obsession trigger that is encouraging business leaders to obsessively and compulsively be always working. 

Andy Raymond, Head of Redline Executive comments: “With the 24/7 digital work environment and the arrival of tablets and smartphones, there has been a growing rate of intrusion on personal time. The expectation that executive professionals should respond to business matters whilst on annual leave has always been present. However, many top management and executives I have come across are increasingly trying to schedule their day in a way that they can manage time better and strike a balance between work and life.” 

“Effective leadership is found to be a key factor in handling stress in the work place; the worst management and leadership styles are shown to generate more stress. If a leader is working an extra hour every day and not enjoying leisure and relaxation on annual leave, this can be a knock on effect to the organisational culture. It can make employees think they have to constantly reply to emails whilst on holiday, like their managers and leaders, which can set expectations to the entire business.” 

Andy continues: “Mobile technology has empowered employees and helped organisations to become more agile, however organisations need to ensure they avoid developing a culture of digital presenteeism. Just because people can be ‘always on’ does not mean they should be or have to be. We have seen some businesses introduce ‘protected weekend’ policies to discourage logging in and working outside the working week, giving employees the licence to switch off.”

For more information visit Redline Executive or to continue the conversation you can contact info@RedlineExecutive.com.

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